Saturday, March 9, 2013

Our Next Book Tea - Pride And Prejudice

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.  If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”
                                                                   Charlotte Lucas, Chapter 6.

Charlotte Lucas’ thoughts on marriage are troubling to the modern mind.

Come to think of it, they were also troubling to Elizabeth Bennett’s mind.  She could hardly believe that her beloved friend, Charlotte could believe such things.

But on Charlotte’s behalf, she was a woman in a precarious position. At twenty-seven years old, her chances to marry were becoming significantly smaller with time.  Her parents would be able to pass along little if any inheritance to her and she felt the apprehension of her younger brothers that they would be left to care for her as the years went by. 

And for a woman of her time period, this was a precarious position.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Opening sentence of novel, Chapter 1.

First published on January 28, 1813, Pride And Prejudice recently celebrated its 200th birthday.  It has captured devoted readers in every time period and almost every language and has a well-deserved place on any recommended reading list. Jane Austen has created a host of characters that have managed to retain acute identifiability for every generation, which is a remarkable achievement for any writer.

As a woman, I feel for Elizabeth and Jane, whose hearts hold out for someone who they can admire and love.  While women around them feel the pressure to marry for financial security, they continue to hold out for a relationship that is affectionate and respectful.

The characters created in Pride And Prejudice, the second published book by Jane Austen richly portray critical issues of the day, along with the importance of money, class structure and how these matters rule the novel’s characters, their choices and their inherent societal obligations.

The business of her life was to get her daughters married.
About Mrs. Bennett, Chapter 1.

Jane Austen wrote Pride And Prejudice between October 1796 and August 1797, after staying with her brother Edward and his wife at Goodnestone Park in Kent and originally  titled it First Impressions.  Initially rejected by a publisher, Austen made revisions between 1811 and 1812 and eventually renamed the story Pride And Prejudice.

It is possible that the title Pride And Prejudice was taken from a passage in one of Jane Austen’s favorite novels of the day, Fanny Burney’s Cecilia“The whole of this unfortunate business,” said Dr. Lyster, “has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE… Yet this, however, remember: if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination…”

Jane Austen’s skill in irony, comedy and in vividly representing the intricate social mores of her time period combined with the richness and variety of the characters that she creates in her novels is all happily and abundantly displayed in Pride And Prejudice.

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! – When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
Caroline Bingley, Chapter 11.

(For once, I agree with Miss Bingley.)

As leader of Britain during World War II Winston Churchill comforted himself during a bout with mid-war pneumonia by having his daughter Sarah read it aloud from the foot of his bed.  He had already read Sense And Sensibility and now enjoyed Pride And Prejudice.  “What calm lives they had, those people?  No worries about the French Revolution or the crashing struggle of the Napoleonic Wars.  Only manners controlling natural passion as far as they could, together with cultural explanations of any mischances.”

You’ve rightfully admired Mr. Firth as Mr. Darcy, enjoyed Judi Dench’s rendition of Lady Catherine De Bourgh or groaned at the failure of the Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier 1940 movie to stick to the actual novel – so make sure you take the time to check out the real work itself.

The Jane Austen Tea Society has happily returned to a study of our beloved Regency author’s works in the order in which they were published. Our second selection will be Pride And Prejudice with a High Tea and Book Discussion to take place on Saturday the 27th of April 2013 at 11am.

There is plenty of time – start reading!

1 comment:

  1. Is there any way I can join in your book discussions in absentia?(As I'm based in the UK!)